Porträt Johannes Stelling
Photo paper, wood, steel chain, electric motor, fan
300 x 200 cm
The kinetic photo-installation for the Open Monuments Day in 2021 in the former district court prison in Berlin-Köpenick deals with the persecution and murder of political opponents by the Nazis, known as “Köpenicker Blutwoche”, which took place in this building in June 1933.
Johannes Stelling, an SPD member of the Reichstag and former Minister President of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was one of the most prominent victims of those days. In this work, he represents all the other victims, most of whom are no longer known today.
The installation, which floats in the open stairwell of the men’s wing of the prison, is attached to an electric motor that slowly rotates the photograph, which has been cut into 3-meter-long strips. A fan positioned to the side blows the image strips apart at regular intervals, thus rendering the portrait unrecognizable. The perception of Stelling’s distinctive head is thus impeded and is only possible in short segments between the swirls, similar to the periodic events of our culture of remembrance, which juxtaposes brief moments of mostly anonymous remembrance of the victims of Nazi terror with long periods of forgetting.
If during the day the installation revolves primarily around the perception of the portrait, at night the illumination with just one LED spotlight creates a shadow play on the walls opposite, which are thus incorporated into the installation space. The physical image is ex-
panded to include a disembodied presence that, in its ephemeral form, fundamentally illustrates the nature of memory: briefly appeared, barely graspable, in a constant state of flux.
Basis of the installation is a photograph from the documentation center in the prison.